Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Is Love?

When I thought about this post, I couldn’t help but imagine Night at the Roxbury. You know, “what is love, baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.” Sorry, that has nothing to do with the post, I just can’t get it out of my head.

Anyways, this post was prompted by some responses on my Righteous Judgment entry. Throughout the past few years, I have heard it said a lot. “Judge not, lest ye be judged” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” All of this is scriptural and can be found in Matthew 7:1 and Matthew 22:39. I do not deny what the scripture states. I do, however, believe these scriptures have been misunderstood.

For example, if you continue on in Matthew chapter 7, you will see that once you remove the plank from your own eye, you will see more clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. It never states the speck should not be removed but that we should see clearly ourselves before addressing the issue at hand. Too often scripture is misread to mean we should never judge and as I said in my last post, there is a righteous judgment.

Usually in response to words such as these, we get hit with the “love your neighbor as yourself.” I guess my question is this, what exactly does love mean? Most people believe we should “agree to disagree” when it comes to issues of doctrine. Jesus is portrayed as a peace-loving hippy. Does this image contradict what Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-36 when He said, “Do not think I came to bring peace on earth, I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” Is this the same Jesus that threw up tables in the synagogue with His wrath and spoke “woe to the Pharisees and scribes,” calling them hypocrites and fools? Would Jesus’ actions be considered loving today?
“These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 7:8-9

Loving on today’s terms means letting your neighbor believe what he/she chooses and accepting there is no definitive truth. If your neighbor is walking into death, do you love them by warning them of the danger or do you let them go their own way to not offend them?

As a loving sister in Christ, I believe that it is important for the body of Christ to be unified. I believe if I see a brother or sister wavering or going down a road that does not seem to be The Way, it is loving if I use God’s Word to speak to them. I, too, will accept this discussion if I am the one that appears to be on the wrong path. Jesus tells us “many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” In a culture where Christianity is easy, I believe it is pertinent that we test all things against scripture. There is only One Truth and until we find it we should be ever seeking. I understand that all people believe their way is lead by the Holy Spirit, but we should always test it against scripture. There are deceiving spirits and how do we know we have not been taken captive?

I have prayed continuously that if I am being blinded that God will allow me to see. It’s not a matter of being right or wrong, it’s a matter of ensuring we are serving the One True God. By becoming complacent with the god we believe in, we just may be serving an idol in our head instead of the God of the Bible. Will it be the complacent that in the end the Lord will declare to, “I never new you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” In His name, these same folks prophesied, cast out demons, and did many wonders. (Matthew 7:22-23)

If we believe someone is following a false doctrine, it is not loving to let them be led astray. “Beware of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Jesus spoke these words and on more than this one occasion warned us of the dangers. Paul was dedicated to warning fellow believers about false doctrines and to not be carried away as children “tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men…” (Ephesians 4:14)

Paul told Timothy, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears they will heap up for themselves teachers and they will turn their ears away from truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

I just cannot grasp how we love our neighbor by turning our backs when the wolves may be carrying them away. And I’m saying this to you, too. If you think I am being led astray, then get your Bible out and show me who God is; because that is the most important thing, to serve the One True God. I can have faith in anything, but if I don’t have faith in the true God, I have nothing.


Tony C said...

I believe there is a greater point in Christ’s words if you don’t focus on the part of taking the speck from your brother’s eye. Is Jesus saying it is a greater task to remove the plank from your own eye, and thus the difference between a plank and a speck? There must be significance in choosing two very different objects in size and composition. Removing a plank is a much greater task than removing a speck.
There is another dimension here also. A plank in one’s eye would do great harm while a speck would be just an irritation. Removing a plank would obviously leave damage that would require healing. I need to study more on this before proceeding, but that jumped out at me as I read the passage in context.
Christ doesn’t mince His words when it comes to love. He states with authority that loving God first and your neighbor as yourself is the GREATEST COMMANDMENTS. There isn’t a ‘but’ or ‘however’ in His statement. How other people have defined love through time or even today is completely irrelevant. Scripture clearly states:

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:7-21 (NIV)

That’s pretty straight forward…God is love. God has complete authority to judge man because He knows our hearts, and He is sovereign. All we can judge is the fruit a person bears…be that good fruit or bad fruit.
Without exception, every Christian denomination takes the Word, manipulates it and declares Truth by pointing to what they have found through the Spirit. We need each other for fellowship and ministry work without doubt, and I don’t feel it is my place to point at other Believers and declare their view inferior. Read verse 16 again. I have a hard time telling another person who sincerely follows this verse they are reading the Word wrong. Only God knows the heart and can make that judgment which also applies to the actions of Jesus in the synagogue.
My task is to worry about the plank in my own eye…not the speck in my brothers.

Michelle said...

How people define ANY word throughout time is completely relevant! Especially in scripture. Agape is much different than phileo. We need to know how the defined word fits into God's message to us.

Without exception, every Christian denomination takes the Word, manipulates it and declares Truth by pointing to what they have found through the Spirit

This is precisely the problem, manipulating the Word is not OK. There IS definitive truth there. If we just say what will be will be and believe whatever without seeking Truth, many will be led astray. The greatest commandment is to love our God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourself. But again, LOVE is not accepting people's belief even if it is contrary to scripture. You are right, God only knows the heart; but fruit does bear the proof.

PLUS, this scripture you keep using is so important because of the racial/national issues at hand during the time...just like the story of the Good Samaritan. It was absurd that there would be love between these two "neighbors." (Just like it is today.) It's easy to love your next door neighbor, but what about when it's your worst enemy? What Jesus was saying was "revolutionary" (if you will) because of the cultural issues at the time between the nations.

And because of this love, do you deny that Jesus came to divide homes?

Tracy said...

Michelle I so appreciate and admire your desire to serve God foremost. I like the fact that you stimulate my thoughts. My most recent post came about in part because of the thoughts stimulated by your last post on righteous judgment.

Your description from the Word about who Jesus is and what He said can not be ignored. I see that it can not be "peace" at any cost.

However, I think Tony makes a very valid point that there are people who have chosen to follow Jesus who feel led by the Holy Spirit to see some scriptures differently than I. We have whole denominations within Christianity because of differences; yet I know from both scripture and experience that I need other Believers. My dad used to deal with this whole issue by saying "major on the majors" (however he believed quite strongly in his thoughts and would only attend one specific denomination of church because he felt led by God to see things the way that denomination did). To my way of thinking, anything that brings us into initial relationship with Christ - His divinity, His sacrificial death, the fact that He gives us faith to believe in Him, His righteousness being imputed unto us so we don't have to earn our way into relationship or to spend eternity in heaven with Him - these are majors. Once these are established each individual can then study scripture on his/her own and let the Holy Spirit guide him/her.

Having said that,I so appreciate during a sermon or in a small group Bible study, when someone speaks out truth and God uses those words to pierce my heart and I find that I've been wrong about something. In theory I believe that God could specifically tell me, or someone else, to approach and individual who is in error - I mean basically, who am I to say how God will do things? One thing I've definitely learned in life is that God frequently does not do things as I would expect and that His ways are so much better than mine!

But I've got to tell you Michelle that in my 49 years of living, for what it's worth, my experience has repeatedly been that the people who are going around telling others how wrong they are bring division. I've seen intense discussion over very specific aspects of doctrine that is not related to the basic concepts of faith in Christ, cause people to lose their focus on loving God and living the life He has called them to. I do not want to be part of that kind of way of living.

Of course doctrine is important. Believing in just anything isn't valid. A favorite author of mine relates how once she met a young college student who insisted that belief in and of itself was the key so he was gonna just believe in this boulder - this kind of thinking demonstrates the importance of truth. I adore songs and written prayers that spell out a "creed", a belief system. I've spent countless hours showing my sons what I see scripture as saying regarding very key doctrinal issues.

So I guess I'm advocating for balance. Doctrine is important and I am expected to search the scriptures and establish in my heart what I believe the Holy Spirit is leading me to do. But I'm not meant to go about starting arguments with other Believers about differences in how we each feel led by God; that must be God's job unless he very specifically leads me differently in specific situations.

Eric F. said...

Whats ironic is that you do exactly what you talk about. You are just so sure that what you have learned/read is correct and what everyone else has read/learned isnt. Plus books of the Bible are written by MEN, therefore everything cant be taken exact. 2 people can describe any event completely different.

Tony C said...

Is it any different today? When Jesus spoke, His words transcended time. The story of the Good Samaritan is just as relevant today as it was when He taught the parable. I don't think we should try to place a time context on what He taught and even commanded.

My point about defining words was in reference to your definition of love today and if people would call some of Christ's actions love. That is irrelevant. There were many in His time that didn't look at any of His actions as love.

Somewhere we have disconnected because I've never said I should accept another person's belief if they are contrary to Scripture out of love. I've had friends for years that are of different beliefs and even no faith at all. I don't love them any less even though I disagree with their belief system. It's not my place to judge them based on their choices. Only God can do that. I'm commanded to love my neighbor, not qualify them worthy or not of God's grace.

I live in a divided house based on Christ's words in these verses because I have family who deny Him before man as He describes in the preceding verse. But, also in Matthew, Christ blesses the peacemakers as the children of God. I don't believe there are contradictions in Scripture, only our inability at times to understand the connections.

Good discussion. Love ya! :)

Nathan said...

Well, first to reply to Eric’s post, we very rarely get into biblical conversations with anyone because the majority of “Christians” prefer to talk about other things. Most people think I am what you describe but could not tell me, other than a couple of Christmas conversations one thing I believe. I rarely talk to friends and family about God because it is rarely a topic of conversation.

Now to reply to Tony and Tracy, I think you may misunderstand the point. It is not to flex some biblical muscle about who knows what and why. This is about sitting down and discussing differences. My opinion of love is this. If I see someone walking into a hole that I know is there, I will instinctively tell him or her to watch out. Why, because I probably stepped in it. And I expect others to do the same for me. That isn’t to say I know where all the holes are.

My boss is a free will thinker and we have very fulfilling talks and I have often left our talks and said, “wow, I hadn’t thought about it like that.” This is isn’t about one side turning everything to their corner. It is about two believers sitting down and discussing differences and trying to gain knowledge off of each other. The problem you run into is that a lot of people 1) don’t really care or 2) cant explain to you why they believe the way they do. These are the people who get mad and clam up and refuse to talk about differences. My boss is confident and able to defend his beliefs.

Now to pt. are we not to question each others beliefs? If someone says Christ is not the only way to heaven are we to say, “Oh well, good luck with that” or are we to say “scripture states without Christ nobody can get to heaven.” If your daughter or son came to you and said a preacher told her/him that if they gave him 100 dollars he could forgive their sins, would we not deny this as truth?

It is not about bible thumping, it is about the pursuit of truth.

Michelle said...

Tracy- As I said in the email, thank you for such thoughtful comments. I'll share with the others what I told you; sometimes when it seems I am arguing I'm actually trying to get people outside their box of denominational thinking and into God's Word.

Tony-I'm not sure if we are on the same page or not?? Our beliefs are VERY different, but it does make for good discussion. I'm thankful for folks like you and Tracy that may be able to shed light on things a little differently.

AND ERIC- I'm not really sure what you are saying. I'm not really sure you got what I was writing about?? I don't do what I'm talking about? I will talk with folks as long as they want to talk about doctrine. I will warn folks if I think they are following a false doctrine and I will listen to their scriptural guidance if they think I am lead astray. As far as people you and I know, no one has ever tried to tell me otherwise. They don't talk about it all.

I'm not really sure where you get your opinion because you and I have never been in a discussion on religion to the best of my recollection, especially Christianity since your agnostic/atheist. Also, you have probably never witnessed a discussion I've had with others because like Nathan, the folks that you and I know don't discuss God. I don't tell people they are wrong; I will tell others I don't see where what you are saying is in scripture, will you please show me? They can either show me or they can't. I've had very edifying discussion with persons of other doctrinal beliefs and faiths. In addition, your faith in the Word of God can only come from God. I have been where you are at now in thinking the same thing about the error in scripture. God has brought me to a different place.

Amber said...

Okay, so here's my two-cents
I couldn't fit it into one little comment box... my hubby says it's too long, but I had a lot to say!
Great discussion Michelle! Thanks for your heart for the truth!

Two Normal Moms said...

I believe love is an action, and I will never be afraid to speak the truth out of love. Thanks for your insightful posts.